Our end-of-year reviews continue with a look back at 2019’s best action in the jumps.
Women’s high jump
Mariya Lasitskene continued as the queen of the high jump during the 2019 season.
The 26-year-old competed in 24 finals indoors and outdoors and won 22 of them, losing just once indoors and once outdoors. She cleared two metres in 17 competitions this year, one more than her tallies from 2018 and 2017.
On the list of most prolific two-metre jumpers, Lasitskene is third with 59 competitions at 2.00m or higher. World record-holder Stefka Kostadinova tops that list with 130 competitions with Blanka Vlasic a clear second at 106.
While Lasitskene was the clear favourite in Doha and had cleared a world-leading equal PB of 2.06m in Ostrava, her win at the World Championships was far from easy. The surprise challenge came from Ukrainian 18-year-old Yaroslava Mahuchikh, who cleared a world U20 record of 2.04m on her third try to take the silver medal, adding four centimetres to her previous best. Lasitskene, who cleared all heights with her first attempt, won her third straight world title with the same result, 2.04m.
USA’s 2016 world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham equalled her personal best of 2.00m for the bronze medal, the 21-year-old’s first podium finish at a global outdoor championship. Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko also cleared 2.00m for fourth place and became only the third athlete in history to jump over two metres at the World Championships and miss out on a medal.
With seven women jumping 2.00m or higher, 2019 was the best season for the women’s high jump since 2008. Along with Mahuchikh and Cunningham, world U20 champion Karyna Demidik of Belarus was 2019’s third new addition to the two-metre club.
A world record of sorts was also achieved in this discipline when Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam cleared a world heptathlon high jump best of 2.02m at the Decastar meeting in Talence, putting her third on the 2019 world list.
Men’s high jump
Things at the top can change dramatically for no obvious reason in a short time in our sport. And the men’s high jump is the most striking recent example.
Looking at the past decade, standards have wildly fluctuated: the number of performers at 2.34m+ has been as few as one (2010) and as many as nine (2014 & 2016), while the number of performances at 2.34m+ has been as few as two (2010) and as many as 45 (2014).
In hindsight, 2014 proved to be an anomaly as a handful of exceptional talents happened to peak simultaneously.
This year, with those stars from 2014 wholly or partially absent from the competitive scene, the world-leading mark was just 2.33m after the conclusion of the Diamond League in late August.
But 2019 was somewhat ‘saved’ at the World Championships in Doha when Mutaz Essa Barshim sailed over 2.37m to get the gold he had been dreaming about ever since his hometown was awarded the championships five years prior.
The Qatari jumper, who returned this year after sustaining a major ankle injury in 2018, had to dig deep as neutral athletes Ilya Ivanyuk and Mikhail Akimenko both raised their PBs by two centimetres to 2.35m.
Women’s pole vault
The performances in the women’s pole vault ahead of the World Championships suggested that the competition in Doha would be tight. And the final lived up to that promise.
USA’s Jenn Suhr led the world list for most of the season with her 4.91m in March, but her pre-Doha form didn’t indicate that she would challenge for a medal. Anzhelika Sidorova was second on the outdoor world list with 4.86m and had cleared 4.91m indoors. The 28-year-old had been extremely consistent, too: in her 18 competitions before Doha, she had finished in the top two in 16 of them.
Other medal favourites included USA’s world indoor champion Sandi Morris, who had earned silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships and had cleared 4.85m at the US Championships in Des Moines.
Olympic and 2017 world champion Katerina Stefanidi, always a formidable competitor at championships, cleared 4.83m in September to win her fourth successive Diamond trophy.
But first-time misses at 4.80m and 4.85m in the World Championships final meant the Greek vaulter had a tough task in defending her title after Sidorova and Morris went clear at those heights with their first attempts.
Sidorova sealed the victory with a world-leading PB of 4.95m while Morris earned another silver medal with 4.90m, the best ever result for second place. In fact, it was the greatest depth pole vault competition ever with 12 women clearing 4.70m or higher, six over 4.80m and three over 4.85m.
That depth was reflected on the world list as a record number of 20 women cleared 4.70m outdoors in 2019.
Men’s pole vault
This was the summer of pole vault battles between ‘the three kings’ of the event as Sam Kendricks, Armand Duplatis – still a teenager – and Piotr Lisek dominated the international scene.
They couldn’t be more different, physically and technically, but they were remarkably evenly matched. They each had two competitions at 6.00m+, and between them they produced the best eight performances in the world this year and 18 of the top 20 marks.
The trio met on seven occasions. They occupied the top three places at five of those seven meets. Kendricks won three of those three-way battles, including the World Championships, while Lisek and Duplantis had two wins apiece.
Kendricks was extremely consistent at 5.80m and above, all the way from the Diamond League opener in Doha in May to his return to the Khalifa Stadium in October for the World Championships. He cleared 5.80m or higher at 15 of his 16 competitions during that five-month span. And he confirmed his ‘primus inter pares’ (‘foremost among equals’) status by prevailing when it mattered most: the Diamond League Final in Zurich and the World Championships final in Doha.
European silver medallist Timor Morgunov, one of the big revelations of 2018, was missing in action this year due to injury woes. But this year still witnessed arguably the most exciting crop of young talent the event ever has seen.
Despite turning just 20 in 2019, athletes born in 1999 contributed more than a fifth (7 of 32) of all the pole vaulters competing in Doha: Duplantis (silver) and Bo Kanda Lita Baehre (fourth) plus KC Lightfoot, Emmanouil Karalis, Zach Bradford, Masako Ejima and Sondre Guttormsen.
The future looks bright.
Women’s long jump
She may have won the European title last year, but Malaika Mihambo made the biggest breakthrough of her career in 2019.
After jumping a world-leading 6.99m indoors, the 25-year-old German jumped seven metres for the first time in Rome in June, winning the Diamond League meeting with 7.07m. Starting in Weinheim in May, she won all of her ten finals, reaching seven metres in seven of them (one windy).
Naturally, she started as the overwhelming favourite at the World Championships. Defending champion Brittney Reese had jumped 7.00m at the US Championships, but in Doha the 33-year-old US jumper was far from her best and did not qualify for the final.
The third seven-metre jumper in 2019, Ese Brume, was much closer to her 7.05m personal best in Doha, but still far away from the German. The Nigerian took the lead in round one with 6.83m and extended it with 6.91m in round two, but after that Mihambo took the lead with a commanding 7.30m world-leading PB with her third jump. It was only the second time in the past 15 years that anyone had achieved such a distance.
Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk jumped a season’s best of 6.92m in round five to take silver ahead of Brume.
Men’s long jump
When Luvo Manyonga emerged in 2016, he looked like someone that could challenge the world record. In the two years that followed, he showed remarkable consistency at the 8.50m level and last year he gained a new rival in the form of young Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarría.
The teenager’s victory over Manyonga at the World Indoors and marginally wind-aided 8.83m leap in Stockholm last year put the long jump in the spotlight in the 12-month countdown to the World Championships in Doha with the focus set firmly on Echevarria and Manyonga.
But in one of the biggest upsets of the 2019 World Championships, Jamaica’s Tajay Gayle rose to the occasion and added 37 centimetres to his PB, flying out to 8.69m in the fourth round to take gold with the longest jump in the world for 10 years. It was an almost Beamonesque moment which killed off all opposition, surpassing the PBs of both Manyonga and Echevarría.
Gayle wasn’t a complete unknown as he’d had a solid season on the international circuit with a handful of top-three finishes at Diamond League meetings, but before the World Championships nothing had suggested the 23-year-old was about to join the world all-time top 10.
With another big name in the event, it will be interesting to see what 2020 will bring. Olympic host nation Japan could produce some big contenders, or Greek youngster Miltiadis Tentoglou could translate his continental success into global glory.
Women’s triple jump
The women’s triple jump in 2019 was all about one woman: Yulimar Rojas.
In recent years the 24-year-old Colombian had won two world indoor titles, one outdoor world title and an Olympic silver. This year she produced nine wins out of 12 finals and was the only woman to jump beyond 15 metres, doing so in five competitions.
In September she took a big leap towards Inessa Kravets’ 24-year-old world record of 15.50m, which has stood for 24 years, winning in Andújar with a South American record of 15.41m to move to second place on the world all-time list.
Although she was beaten by Shanieka Ricketts at the Diamond League final, Rojas’s supremacy in Doha was never in question. She led from the first round, jumping 14.87m, and then produced her winning mark of 15.37m in round two.
Rojas took gold with a winning margin of 45 centimetres as Ricketts claimed silver with 14.92m. The 27-year-old Jamaican made a big leap forward in 2019, winning the Diamond trophy with 14.93m and performing consistently on the international circuit.
Olympic champion Caterine Ibargüen, who has battled niggling injuries throughout 2019, managed to salvage the bronze medal in Doha with 14.73m. Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams equalled her personal best of 14.64m for fourth place, while 2011 world champion Olga Saladukha was fifth with 14.52m.
Men’s triple jump
Jonathan Edwards was 29 when he entered his golden years, winning his first world title in 1995 and doing so with a world record. Christian Taylor turned 29 this year but he has already amassed so many major gold medals that he is up there with the greatest of all-time.
Taylor’s trademark has always been rising to the occasion at major events, a trait that had brought him five out of six possible global outdoor titles between 2011 and 2017. Despite his past record, however, he wasn’t the outright gold medal favourite ahead of this year’s World Championships.
Taylor’s main adversary over the past decade, Will Claye, owned the two longest marks of the year, topped by a world-leading 18.14m which had moved him to third on the world all-time list.
Claye took the early lead in the World Championships final while Taylor struggled, fouling in the first two rounds. But Taylor’s championship magic had not been lost: in round four he gained the lead with 17.86m, and he extended it to 17.92m in round five.
Claye tried to respond, but despite a remarkably consistent series with all six jumps landing between 17.53m and 17.74m, he couldn’t quite beat his compatriot. As he had done at three previous global championships, he had to settle for silver behind Taylor.
Hugues Fabrice Zango finished third, just eight centimetres behind Claye, with an African record of 17.66m, earning Burkina Faso’s first medal at a global athletics championships. The 26-year-old has come a long way in the past two years. He surpassed the 17-metre mark for the first time during the 2018 indoor season and finished sixth at the World Indoors that year.
After a world-leading indoor mark of 17.58m earlier this year, Zango consistently placed in the top four on the Diamond League circuit and then twice raised his PB in Doha, jumping 17.56m and 17.66m.
Mirko Jalava (women’s events) and A Lennart Julin (men’s events) for World Athletics